May 19, 2010
Should Gen X and Y Law Firm Librarians Be Worried About Becoming Directors?
Apparently there is cause for concern. In Are Law Firm Library Directors Passé? Greg Lambert writes:
As aging Baby Boomer law firm library directors retire, there seems to be a growing trend to eliminate the Library Director position and either run the department by committee, or move responsibility for the law library to the Chief Information Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, or to existing Directors of other departments such as Knowledge Management. So far, I've seen very little reaction from the associations that represent law librarians (whether it is AALL, SLA, or local associations) in protest of these moves. I now know of at least three AmLaw 100 firms that no longer have a Library Director, and have no plans to rehire those positions because they do not see the value that this position brings to their firms. So, are law firm Library Directors passé? If we don't start doing something about this trend right now they sure as hell soon will be.
Greg goes on to refer to the ABA's Law School Accreditation Standard 603 (Director of the Law Library), stating "there must be a director, and even goes further to suggest that the Director hold a law degree and a library degree." But only suggests. Law schools have wiggled out of Standard 603 by appointing info deans whose responsibilities include the law library. Case in point, Harvard's John Palfrey who had no law library administrative experience before his appointment.
The simple fact is that even large AmLaw 100 firms have absolutely no requirement to have a law library director position. And as far as I know, there is no movement within the ABA, AALL, SLA, American Lawyer, National Law Journal, or any other organization to set a requirement similar to Standard 603 for law firms. Is it time to push for such a standard for large law firms? Or did law librarians miss the opportunity to solidify their roles within law firms and are now watching as the top library positions disappear forever?
Is it time for AALL to push for such a standard?Sure, why not? It won't do any more good that the ABA Accreditation Standards without some sort of sanctions. All I can think of is AALL not posting job ads, which in this economy won't be beneficial for job hunting professional law librarians, or creating some "Bad Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval" which will alert law firm applicants that they will be reporting to a bean-counter running the firm library.
Will top library positions in law firms disappear forever?Not if large law firms learn from Baker & McKenzie's bonehead mistake when the firm decided it didn't need a law library in its Chicago home office in the 1980s. Not after some law firm non-librarian administrator's eyes glaze over by WEXIS sales pitches. WEX IS would salivate uncontrollably over the prospect of negotiating with amateurs in BigLaw but it takes a professional law librarian to say "whoa."
Now about that whole aging Baby Boomer law library director retirement thing, Greg! See Carpe Diem Gen X and Y Law Librarians: You, Too, Shall Practice the Art of the Possible One Day. Lambert, by the way, is a candidate for the AALL Executive Board. Got this decrepit Baby Boomer library director's vote for competence. Hopefully your vote, too. In other words, this teasing post is from a older and tired blogger to a younger and more energetic one. Keep up the good work Greg. [JH]